Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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OWEN, Goronwy, poet, born in Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf, Anglesea, North Wales, 13 January, 1722 ; died at St. Andrews parish, Brunswick County, Virginia, between 1770 and 1780. His father, Owen Gronow, had some poetic taste, and his mother, Sian Parri, trained her son in his childhood. He was sent to a school not far from his home, and the celebrated Lewis Morris, having met him, sent him to Beaumaris, where he was a zealous scholar. When he was nineteen years of age his mother died, and, leaving home, he became one of the masters of the grammar-school at Pwllheli, in Caernarvonshire. Soon after this Mr. Morris and his brothers sent him to Jesus college, Oxford, where he made rapid progress in Greek and Latin and gave proof of poetical talent in Welsh to such a degree that he was even then regarded as a rising Welsh bard. In 1745 he was ordained as a minister in the Church of England and obtained a small curacy in his native parish, but soon had to give way to a favorite of the bishop of Bangor. The next seven years of his life were full of cruel disappointments. His grand wish was to obtain a parish in Wales, but he was unsuccessful, and took a place at Oswestry, and then at Uppington in Shropshire. While there he wrote his celebrated poem, called "Cywydd y Farn" (the Day of Judgment), which is regarded as his masterpiece. Subsequently he served as curate at Walton in Lancashire, and then at Northolt near London. But his salary was so small that he could scarcely supply the wants of his family. Still he continued to write poems full of genius, which he sent to his generous patrons, the Morris brothers. While he was at Northolt he accepted an offer to go to the College of William and Mary in Virginia at a salary of £200 a year, and in the latter part of 1757 he sailed for this country. He married for his second wife Mrs. Clayton, a sister of Reverend Thomas Dawson, president of the college. Of his career here little is known except that after about three years he was compelled to leave, and became rec-tot of a church in St. Andrews parish, Brunswick County, where he died. Mr. Owen is described as the last of the great poets of Wales, and, with the exception of Ab Gwilym, the greatest that principality has produced. His bardic title was "Goronwy Ddhu o Fon," that is, Black Goronwy of Anglesea. His poems for a long time had circulated through Wales in manuscript, but it was not until 1763, five years after Goronwy's departure for America, that his collected works were published in "Y Diddanwch Teuluaidd," and succeeding editions were printed in 1819 and 1860. In addition to the Welsh, Mr. Owen had a knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Gaelic, Chaldee, and English. His countrymen in 1831 erected a tablet to his memory in the cathedral church of Bangor. See " The Poetical Works of the Reverend Goronwy Owen, with his Life and Correspondence," edited by Reverend Robert Jones (London, 1876).
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